Screencapping 101

Anyone who makes graphics knows the importance of having pictures from which to work, and one of the best ways of getting those pictures is screencapping them yourself where possible. There are, of course, other options like using Google’s Image Search to scour the Internet or to use communities like LJ’s Cap_It to find places where other people have screencapped files you want. But here’s what I use and/or recommend for your capping purposes:

DVDs

For DVDs, I seriously recommend getting a DVD playing program with capping abilities. Some examples are PowerDVD, Intervideo WinDVD, which is what I use. (I have version 5, in case you’re curious.) Computers that have a DVD-ROM drive frequently come with a program like this on them, but the included version doesn’t alway have capping capabilities. If you’re having trouble finding a button on your controls that gives you screencaptures, check the Help file. It may sound annoying to have me tell you that, but anytime I have trouble with any program, that’s the first place I go. Those engineers didn’t spend all that time writing the documentation just for you to ignore it.

If your version of one of these programs doesn’t have capping capabilities and you feel that you must have this ability, then I seriously do suggest buying an upgraded version.

Another option is to try to get Windows Media Player to cap DVDs. I am told that in version 9 or 10 you can go to Tools –> Options –> Performance and set the Video Acceleration to none. Then you can use the Prt Scr button (look up there next to F12; remember the function keys, your old DOS friends?) and paste the caps into a program like Photoshop or even just Paint (Start –> Programs –> Accessories). As I said, I’m told that works. It’s never worked for me, though :-/ The downside to using a technique like this is that you have to stop and paste every time you cap. If you have a large amount of capping to do, that gets old very fast. Hence, I encourage buying a program that will cap without you going through that pain.

Video Files You Can Save to Your Hard Drive

By that I mean files like .mpegs, .avis, and .wmvs. For these, I recommend the gem of a program known as BSPlayer. Once you download and install the program, open up your options menu by pressing the preferences button Preferences button, which can be found above the fast forward button. A window like this one will show up:

Menu

That circled area is the place where you can specify the folder you’d like your caps to be saved to. Below that, you can specify the file type and format of file name that you’d like. Then you just start up the file and press P every time you want to save a cap. It’s as easy as that!

Flash Videos

For video files that you can’t save to your hard drive and that aren’t being streamed through programs like Windows Media Player or RealPlayer, you can simply use the Prt Scr button and paste the caps one-at-a-time into Paint, Photoshop, or whatever image-altering program you use. The best example of this type of file that I could think of was a Flash movie. This sort of technique works with sites like Homestar Runner, but, of course, you can’t pause Strong Bad e-mails, so you’ll probably be watching them over and over to get the caps you want. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily.

That’s all that comes to me, at the moment. If I think of more suggestions, then I’ll edit this to add them. Happy capping!

Updated 03/06/2009: Screencapping is not something I do much of anymore, but I felt the need to add a note here now that BSPlayer is no longer freeware. Instead, try using VLC player. It’s free and open source. It works on pretty much any OS and it plays pretty much any kind of file, including streams. The program calls screencaps “Video snapshots.” The directory to save images to is configurable in the Tools -> Preferences menu and the hotkey to take a screenshot is Shift+s by the default. Happy capping!

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